SD Bishops Surprised By Pope Selection

Mar 13, 2013

The Catholic Church has a new pope.  76-year old Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio  from Argentina has taken the name Pope Francis.   SDPB’s news team gathered reactions from across the state.   Charles Michael Ray has today’s Dakota Digest.

When white smoke began pouring out of Saint Peters Basilica Bishop Robert Gruss who leads the Catholic Diocese in Rapid City did the same thing as many Catholics around the world. He waited for the official announcement.  When the news came in that Cardinal Bergoglio from Argentina would become Pope Francis, Gruss was surprised but pleased.  

“It’s a great joy for me to know that we have a leader of the Catholic Church once again I’m delighted that we have a Pope,” says Gruss.

Gruss says part of his surprise at the announcement is due to how fast the conclave made its choice.

“I thought the conclave would take a little longer than it had.  The surprising part of it to me is how quickly this took place.  And, so it must speak to really to the hearts of I believe of the cardinals and their united really together to come up with a decision this quick,” says Gruss.

On the other side of the state Bishop Paul Swain who leads the Sioux Falls Diocese also speculated that the speed of the decision indicates many Cardinals in the conclave already knew who they wanted.  Still Bishop Swain says Cardinal Bergoglio was not widely seen as a front runner. 

The Cathedral in Sioux Falls. Photo by Kealey Bultena

“A little bit of a surprise in the sense is that he wasn’t the one the names that were being even in Latin America the ones who were being talked about,” says Swain. 

Swain points out that Pope Francis comes from Argentina.  He is the first pope in the history of the church to come out of a third world country.  Swain says Pope Francis has background caring for the poor and vulnerable.  He says this is due to the fact that he comes a country with economic challenges and pockets of deep poverty.

“His experience is very different from Benedict’s or John Paul’s or any of those before, and I think that will be reflected in his teachings. And probably encourage us to be more aware of the needs of others and we think we are but I think he will challenge us in a new way,” says Swain.  

Bishop Gruss in Rapid City adds that it’s good the cardinals selected a representative from South America.

“The Catholic Church is strong in Latin America and I think by selecting a pope from Argentina Speaks of that in a very clear way.  And, I believe this the new Pope will have the opportunity to unite the Catholic Church throughout the world.  And, bring life to those areas of the world where the Church isn’t so strong.

In this case the last Pope is still alive and part of the church.  Pope Emeritus Benedict stepped down to the surprise of many.    Dr. Helen Ciernick, Assistant Professor of Theology at Mount Marty College in Yankton, tells SDPB’s Dakota Midday that the former pope will likely remain behind the scenes.

“He is a humble man and I don’t see him wanting to interfere with another man’s papacy, another man’s time as pope.  And so he will step into the background,”  says Ciernick.

Pope Frances steps into his new job with many challenges laid out.  Sex abuse scandals have plagued the church, leaked documents showed corruption in the Vatican itself.   Polls show many American Catholics want the church to loosen its stance on social issues. Meanwhile there is a decrease in parishioners in western countries, with a shortage of priests in parts of the developing world.  Pope Francis took the first step in his papacy the same way others have before him - with a blessing over the cheering crowd gathered at the Vatican.   Despite the challenges that may lie ahead for Pope Francis--Many Catholics around the world are cheering right alongside those in Rome.